New Delhi: After a face-off over Covid “mismanagement”, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and the Modi government look headed for yet another showdown — this time over District Development Coordination Monitoring Committees, termed as DISHA, ThePrint has learnt.
DISHAs, which function under the rural development ministry, have been formed to ensure better coordination among all the elected representatives in Parliament, state legislatures and local governments (panchayati raj institutions, municipal bodies) for efficient and time-bound development. The monitoring committees were first set up in 1985, but renamed as DISHA in 2016.
DISHAs primarily take stock of the implementation of central schemes in states, and committees are supposed to be formed in every district. They are headed by MPs, who act as chairpersons, while district magistrate (DMs) function as the secretary.
The latest flashpoint is over complaints made by Bengal BJP MPs — during a meeting Friday with party national president J.P. Nadda — that there have been no meetings under the DISHA initiative in their districts since the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. In Bengal, the BJP has 18 Lok Sabha MPs and most of them were present during the virtual meeting.
A BJP MP, who took part in the meeting, told ThePrint that MPs have told Nadda that under Mamata’s instructions, no district magistrate (DM) ever called them for DISHA meetings.
“Some MPs said they don’t even know if DISHA committees exist in their districts,” the MP said.
The parliamentarians also alleged that district magistrates never cooperate with them or call them for any public events or functions.
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BJP leaders said they have raised the matter with the DMs in the past, but that hadn’t yielded any results.
The above-mentioned MP said Nadda, after hearing the complaints, told the MPs to gherao such DMs, who don’t pay heed to their concerns, but in a peaceful manner.
‘Mamata wants to hide things’
A second BJP MP told ThePrint that Babul Supriyo, Asansol MP and a Union minister, was among those who raised the matter during the meeting, which was held by Nadda to take stock of the situation in Bengal in the aftermath of Cyclone Amphan and also in view of the rising Covid-19 cases.
“We don’t know whether DISHA committees have been formed in the state or not. In every other state, these committees are holding meetings, but in Bengal, there is no committee, no meeting, no implementation of central schemes,” said Hembram Kumar, MP from Jhargram.
“We have written several letters to DMs, but they don’t respond. This is a bizarre state. In adjoining Odisha, (DISHA) committees are working despite a different state government there. We have urged Naddaji to take action in the matter,” he added.
Locket Chatterjee, BJP MP from Hooghly, told ThePrint since 2019 Lok Sabha elections, “there has been no call for meetings”.
“We have written several letters to the CM and DMs, but they fear if such meetings take place, we will ask details of (central) schemes implemented at panchayat levels, block levels, and the money spent (on schemes). Mamata doesn’t want transparency. She wants to hide things because there is rampant corruption and ‘cut-money’ involved. She doesn’t want any scrutiny…” she added.
The first BJP MP mentioned above said Nadda told MPs if DMs don’t acknowledge their concerns, they could gherao them, but peacefully. He also said he would take this up with Union Home Minister Amit Shah.
During the Parliament session in March, 18 BJP MPs had met Union Rural Development Minister Narendra Singh Tomar to apprise him of this matter.
Following this, the ministry had even sent a letter to Mamata, asking her to hold DISHA meetings, said Chatterjee.
In another session last year, Congress MP Adhir Chowdhury had raised the matter in the Lok Sabha. He had said DISHA meetings were not happening in Bengal, after which Speaker Om Birla had asked the state’s chief secretary to convene such meetings.
“Since 2012, there have been no meetings under DISHA. I am the chairperson of the DISHA committee (of my district). I have written to both Centre and Mamata, but in vain. Under Mamata regime, there is no transparency, no meetings take place involving opposition leaders,” Chowdhury, an MP from Berhampore, told ThePrint.
The ruling Trinamool Congress, however, dismissed all the allegations, saying the BJP is trying to defame the state government.
“In our district, there is a (DISHA) committee and meetings take place as per schedule. BJP MPs are only trying to defame the state government. If in any district, there is a problem, they should talk to the district magistrate first,” Dibyendu Adhikari, TMC MP from Tamluk constituency in Purba Medinipur district, told ThePrint.
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